Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 in Vinyl

Best New Vinyl
The Faint Doom Abuse
Doom Abuse is packed with ear worms galore.  It doesn't hurt that the VVers also got to see them crushing it in concert this year where they 100% delivered the goods.  No small potatoes for a band just shy of twenty years into their career.  Read the entire review here.
Ex-Hex Rips
Crocodiles Crimes of Passion

Worst Purchase for Completing a Musician's Run?
Kurtis Blow Back By Popular Demand 
There was really no reason to buy this album except for the sheer, demented, curiosity of the VVers to hear how bad it actually would sound, oh, and to complete the collection of all Kurtis Blow albums on vinyl.  Quite a feat, by the VVers, not KB.  He's really lowballing it here.  It's a shame because you can tell he still has skills... just zero things that are relevant to rap about.

This just doesn't look right. 
Most Confounding Cover
The Gauntlet Soundtrack
This painted cover by renowned fantasy artist Frank Frazetta is stunning.  If it wasn't Clint's squinty face attached to somebody else's over-muscled bod it could be a masterpiece.  As a crate digger this VVer never expected to find this soundtrack and sort of wishes it could be unfound.  Good luck trying to unsee it.  However, the bleating-horn jazz on the album is not what is expected from this cover; it's actually not bad.

Best Live Recording
Queen Live at the Rainbow '74
Early Queen is the best and anything involving Queen II has this VVer's attention.  These previously unreleased recordings meld Sheer Heart Attack with Queen II:  think a "Stone Cold Crazy" "Ogre Battle" with off-the-rails, exploratory guitar riffing jams!  It helps that the recordings are spectacular and allow the instrumentation to really come through.  The stage banter from Freddie Mercury is suitably ridiculous.  And it came with a free purple tote bag!

Biggest Vinyl Record (Literally)/Best Justification for Having a Back-Up Player
The Jazz Messengers at the Cafe Bohemia Vol. 2
VVer #2 was checking this out at Gerosa Records in CT, and noticed the record was hard to get out of the inner sleeve and hard to get back in after.  The vinyl was in good shape, so not much was thought of the packaging difficulties.  Regardless, it came home with the VVers and was taken out to play.  The LP wouldn't spin cleanly on the turntable and there was a weird scraping sound.  What was happening?  Oh, the outer area of the record was just cut too large and hitting on the base of the needle arm when turning.  How bizarre!  Out came the portable record player on which it spun with ease.  GIANT RECORD!!!
Photos this size don't do this sleeve justice!

Best Package (Art and Vinyl) {haha, best package, haha}
Big Business Battlefields Forever
This album has the most beautiful cut paper (and glitter!) assembled cover and a crazy looking inner sleeve to boot.  The vinyl itself is a sludgy, dark green tie-die looking splotch.  Totally suits the sound of this monster album.
Black Angels Clear Lake Forest
Upon a quick glance at the cover..."Ut, I just got high."  Swirly spinning record is pretty colors that you can taste with your eyes.

Best New Vinyl with Bells and Whistles
Jack White Lazaretto
Did you know there can be a hologram in a spinning record?  Did you know that depending on where the needle drops there can be two different openings, one acoustic, one plugged-in, for a track?  Who would have thought of a lock track at the end of a side of a record to actually MAKE you get up to flip it?  Mr. Jack White.  The VVers applaud your unparalleled use of bells and whistles to create a gem of a record.

Best Vinyl Not Purchased for $100
At the last DC Record Fair, VVer #2 was eying Mingus Ah Um from a vendor who had it in their rare section and said he would knock $20 off it and sell for just under $100... ah um, no thanks.  Instead a shiny reissue was found at the Sound Garden in Baltimore for around $20, the going-rate for new vinyl.  The music includes familiar tunes that you can't pinpoint where you know them from.  Spiffy arrangements and bass lines from Mingus.  The VVers aren't too sure why all the original copies of this recording are selling for astronomical prices (maybe they are just rare), but the music is certainly worth it and the VVers are happy they can listen to it on their favorite format without having to empty your pasta sauce jar.  Hooray for reissues!

Best Gift Vinyl
Neil Young + Crazy Horse Ragged Glory
(The LP was wrapped and then hidden beneath the fake cover for Milli Vanilli Girl You Know It's True, with an even faker sticker "Test Pressing - Brown Vinyl."  Genius.).
It would be hard to put into the words the shock of receiving a Milli Vanilli album as a gift and then the added happier shock of it actually being this hard to come by 90's era Neil + the Horse album.  Let's say it made for a relieved laugh.
A lot could be made of how great this album is; easily enough to fill a separate write-up.  For the sake of this "Best of" let's just focus on the song "Love and Only Love," a ten plus minute garage rock masterpiece of blissful guitar bluster stippled with the purest lyrical call to arms.  "Love and only love will endure.  Hate is everything you think it is.  Love and only love will break it down."  The rest of the album is great, but wowie-zowie ... this song has some mighty legs on it.  Frank Sampedro's guitar leads are the sort of crunchy goodness that must be heard to be believed.  Bravo!  If not for the rest of this fine LP you'd wish it was a twenty minute song.
Faith No More The Real Thing

Best Used Vinyl
Creedence Clearwater Revival
People don't really shine-on about their debut album, but it's got the goods.  Well worth adding to your collection.  Funny, the back cover has a massive write-up from a Rolling Stone editor about how San Francisco was the center of the popular music universe at the time.  The write-up contains exactly one sentence about the band.  Well, allow this VVer to shine-on for a second and state that this slab is a prime example of early heavy blues Americana.  Originals and covers duel for supremacy here with classic cover "Suzie Q" being the winner by a hair over original "Walk on Water."  Tough call.
Them Roots of Rock

Most Triangluar Record
Neil Young Re-act-or single
Eyeballed at Long in the Tooth in Philadelphia, this triangular shaped record sleeve was hanging on the wall.  "What is that!?!"  VVer #2 needed to know if the vinyl inside was in fact triangular and how much this crazy thing would set her back.  The price was right and the  translucent red, triple-pointed slab of vinyl in the sleeve was in nice condition, thus the whole pointy package got to come home to the House of VV.  The innovative sleeve assembles into a pyramid shape when fastened correctly.  Not sure what the purpose of this is... Neil?  Although the tracks are from Re-act-or which the VVers already have, this was a great one to add to the collection.  It's gorgeously weird.

Best Concert
DEVO (Hardcore Tour) - Rams Head Live
The concert that should have been ho-hum turned out to be yum yum!  Not only is this band well into their grey years (too much?), but they are down two members (this mini-tour was actually meant as a fundraiser of sorts for the family of recently deceased Bob 2) and they were playing a venue that generally has been sour for these VVers.  Top this off with the fact that the band played almost entirely their pre-"Whip-It" back catalog of songs that are just as weird as ever.  Songs such as "She Didn't Know I Was a Midget," "Mechanical Man," and "Soo Bawls" interspersed with a few well know hits like "Uncontrollable Urge," "Mongoloid," and crushing early single "Be Stiff."  Well guess what?  DEVO are super professional and have chops for miles.  Playing as a four piece, the band sounded lean and full of energy.  Not only that, but the crowd was totally engaged and a lot of folks seemed completely stupefied by how strange it was.  This was the second time the VVers have had the good fortune to see DEVO and they are an enigma.  The second concert was just as creative and entertaining as the first; these guys are outliers in that regard.
Crocodiles/Sisu/Shark Week - Comet Ping Pong
Queens of the Stone Age/St. Vincent/Brody Dalle - Merriweather Post Pavilion
The Faint - 9:30 Club
As you can see, it was a great year for live music.

Best New 45
Shark Week Santurce
This local band hasn't put out a ton of music yet.  The two impeccably catchy tunes on this 45 have these VVers salivating for a full LP release, which should be coming in 2015.  Santurce is a blissful blast of surfer rock played with swagger and abandon.  "Go West" from the A-side (oh wait, double A-side 45) is full of snakey tempo shifts and kick-ass drum work.  The VVers are going to burn this one out!

Most Relevant Development in the Filing Department
Moving the 10" records to their own section makes them easier to find.  The VVers discriminate by size.

Best Used 45
The White Stripes Conquest
Picked up at True Vine in Baltimore, this little disc packs a punch from Jack and Meg, with the help of some triumphant trumpeteering.  Beck (along with his living room) take credit on the B-side for the amusing ditty, "It's My Fault for Being Famous."

Artist Most Responsible for an Overcrowded Section of Storage and Depleted Funds
Mr. Neil Young
Almost an entire "cube" of the record shelf is devoted to a multi-sized collection of Neil Young vinyl: some flimsy 80's pressings and some giant, well packaged, triple-disc recordings (likely culprit of the depleted funds).

Most Divisive Record
Faith No More Motherfucker
VVer #2 does not want to hear this again in the house and very much dislikes the snarling wolf on the cover.
VVer #1 listens to it all the time when VVer #2 isn't home.  Granted, it is heavy, evil, and weird which is probably why VVer #2 enjoys it.

Upon reviewing the haul of 2014, the VVers realized that they have in fact done less vagabonding (aka crate-digging) and more new record purchasing over the past year.  This might just be a sign of the times; vinyl is back as a format and being pressed at such a rate that the few remaining record pressing factories can barely keep up.  While happy about the superior music format trending upwards the VVers have a budget to maintain; new vinyl isn't exactly cheap.  In the interests of getting back to basics, the VVers are going to try to concentrate on the pursuit of buried treasure in 2015.  Happy vagabonding!

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